Here’s my take. Many in Europe have not yet woken up to the changed, challenging but better world created by the end of the cold war. This goes for western Europe’s politicians as well as its voters. On Europe’s left and the right, there is a yearning for a politics that will make the perceived problems of the post-cold war era – market forces for some, black people for others – go away. Some of Europe’s politicians occasionally imply that bits of this might be possible. But it is not.
In the aftermath of the death of communism, referendums provide an ideal weapon for backlash politics of the sort that we have seen this week. But these referendums are not the foundations of a serious alternative or a new kind of politics. They are a warning that Europe’s politicians have failed to give Europe’s anxious citizens an overarching explanation of how governments can help to manage their place in the globalised market economy of the post-cold war era. With the death of the EU constitution, they will simply have to go back and try again, because this is still the only game in town.